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  • Robert E. Ulanowicz

    1. Robert E. Ulanowicz is Professor Emeritus at University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Solomons, MD 20688-0038, USA. His current mailing address is Arthur R. Marshall Laboratory, Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525, USA; e-mail:
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Abstract Physicalism holds that the laws of physics are inviolable and ubiquitous and thereby account for all of reality. Laws leave no “wiggle room” or “gaps” for action by numinous agents. They cannot be invoked, however, without boundary stipulations that perforce are contingent and which “drive” the laws. Driving contingencies are not limited to instances of “blind chance,” but rather span a continuum of amalgamations with regularities, up to and including nearly determinate propensities. Most examples manifest directionality, and their very definition encompasses intentionality. Contingencies, via their interactions with laws, can reinforce and maintain one another, thereby giving rise to enduring, ordered configurations of constraints. All of ordered nature thus results from ongoing transactions between mutualistic contingencies that constrain possibilities and entropic chance events that degrade order but diversify opportunities. Laws do not of themselves determine reality; interactions among contingencies do. For believers, the robust abundance of indeterminacies provides ample latitude for divine intervention, free will, and prayer. The priority of contingency also affords some insight into the meaning of suffering and evil.